Autumn Statement 2023: Business West says region has missed out yet again

November 22, 2023

Business West, the region’s largest business organisation, voiced its disappointment that, once again, the West of England had been overlooked when it came to major government spending commitments.

Its director of policy Matt Griffith, pictured, pointed out the region had failed to be selected as one of the government’s investment zones – “the second time we have lost out on this flagship economic policy,” he added.

“Our region is struggling to be recognised at a national level despite the excellent credentials we have in life sciences, clean energy, aerospace and automotive.

“The risk is that low visibility and level of political ambition starts to undermine our key economic assets and investor sentiment.”

He said there was “a pressing need” for the West of England to start raising its profile and making the case for investment support to help transform its economy.

Overall, Business West, which runs Bristol Chamber of Commerce, gave ‘two cheers’ to the Autumn Statement, with Matt Griffith saying it contained some unexpected and welcome surprises “set against a sombre set of economic projections and medium-term spending realities”.

“Businesses will welcome the National Insurance reduction, which is a more significant tax cut than we were expecting,” he added.

“This will feed directly into workers’ pay packets, which may provide some support for employees facing costs of living pressures and boost consumer spending and take-home pay.

“The announcement that Full Expensing will be made permanent will hopefully boost levels of private sector investment. Low levels of business investment has been a challenge for the UK for decades, and helps explain some of our poor recent performance on productivity and growth across our region and nationally.

“This is something that we, and the British Chamber of Commerce, have been pushing for and are very glad to see it announced.”

He also said the year extension for business rates relief for hospitality and retail would also be warmly welcomed by these businesses, as they have been under significant pressure since Covid and add so much value to our region.

However, this was countered by the sombre news of downgraded economic growth forecasts, persistent levels of inflation and the prospect of very tight government departmental budgets for the years to come.”

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